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The time backwater antho.., p.1
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       The Time Backwater Anthology, p.1

           Stephen Jennison-Smith
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The Time Backwater Anthology

  By Stephen Jennison-Smith

  Copyright 2111 Stephen Jennison-Smith

  All rights reserved

  ‘The Inky Blackness’ was written as a piece of Flash Fiction to advertise ‘The Crying Pennant’. Flash Fiction is usually free and sees the characters from the main book in a smaller adventure so that you get a taste of things to come. The majority of this anthology is made up of ‘The Time Backwater’ short stories also published as Flash Fiction but now collected into one volume.


  Voice one, “So this is what pre-existence is like.”

  Voice two, “I’ve always wondered what pre-existence was like.”

  “Have you?”

  “No, not really, I haven’t started existing yet.”

  “I wonder where we are?”

  “Some kind of inky blackness I suppose.”

  “What is inky blackness?”

  “This darkness.”

  “What is the darkness?”

  “A pop group I think.”

  “Did they exist before our pre-existence?”

  “Well no, we pre-existed long before them.”

  “How do we know? Are we pre-cognitive?”

  “That’s a big word and a big concept. Do you mean we know about ourselves before we are conscious?”

  “I don’t know, it just came out. Like I am, or will be intelligent.”

  “I don’t know whether to insult you or not because, in my pre-existent form, I don’t know whether I am more intelligent than you or funnier or just plain rude.”

  “Plain rude I think.”

  “That was quick.”

  “Razor sharp mate.”

  “Do you know what a razor is, in your pre-existent state?”

  “Intuition mate.”

  “I think I know what that is, intuitively.”

  “Well then, it must be so.”

  “And so must you.”


  “Be so.”

  “Be so what?”


  “Oh, I found it difficult to follow your train of thought.”

  “Train eh, I don’t remember those, seeing as I don’t exist yet.”

  “But don’t you feel a little like you’ve existed before?”

  “Whoa, steady on, that’s not in the Bible, that’s Buddhism or something, and I’m not one of them.”

  “How do you know?”


  “Did you say that before or did I?”

  “I can’t remember, it’s difficult in the inky blackness to know whether you said something or not, especially if he doesn’t use names or voice 1/voice 2 at the beginning of sentences.”

  “Oh yes, I forgot about he. Who is he again?”

  “The person who is writing this stuff.”

  “I wonder what he’s called?”

  “Does it really matter?”

  “Well it might explain the inky blackness.”

  “It could be the inky blackness of his mind.”

  “Ooer, that sounds a bit dark and mysterious.”

  “Well isn’t it?”


  “Isn’tthe inky blackness dark and mysterious?”

  “I suppose it is, I have never thought of it before. I never thought of anything before. Quite scary really if I knew what fear was. But I don’t seem to.”

  “Is that ‘cause you’re brave or ‘cause you’re fearless?”

  “Not either, probably just plain stupid if you ask me.”

  “Which I didn’t.”


  “Ask you.”


  “If you are plain stupid.”

  “Oh I thought you meant plane stupid.”

  “And what’s that supposed to mean? Plane stupid?”

  “Stupid planes?”

  “And what are they?”

  “I don’t know, I just invented them.

  Just then a stupid plane popped into existence.

  “Wow, look what the power of the imagination did.”

  “Looks like magic to me, I don’t like magic.”

  “Neither do I. I intuitively feel though, that it is not magic but the power of the imagination, his imagination.”

  “Oh, that’s alright then.”

  “And if we can say something and he imagines it then it comes to be, in his imagination.”

  “What does that mean?”

  “It means we can be imagined out of this pre-existence, this inky blackness.”

  “See what you mean.”

  “What shall we imagine then?”

  “Some kind of pathway, leading to our existence.”

  “A yellow brick road.”

  “That’s been done already.”

  “How do you know?”

  “I just do. Let’s think of something else.”

  “A red brick road?”

  “Stop thinking about The Wizard of Oz.”

  But it was too late because by then a red brick road leading to an intense light appeared.

  “This looks like it.”


  “The end of our pre-existence.”

  They got closer to the entrance. One of them lifted back the curtain of inky blackness to pear through into the light.

  “Pear through the light?”

  “Sorry I misspelled peer,” he said.

  “The plaited see-saw rocked to and fro in the wind…”

  “I wonder if I’ll be as funny when I finally stop pre-existing?”

  “This is it, we’re on.”

  They both stepped out into the dungeon of a fantasy novel called The Crying Pennant.

  The beginning.

  The Time Backwater I

  The Time Backwater is a floating shopping precinct in non-space. The space between space and time. If Interdimensional Wrist Transporters are being heavily used for a certain time period in history any excess time travellers are re routed to the Time Backwater until the backlog can be dealt with. Arthur, King of the Britons and Sid the dwarf popped onto the scene on a re-routing pad in one of the many hives of waiting rooms on the lower floor of the precinct.

  “Great,” said Arthur, “the time backwater again. I wonder how long we will be here this time?”

  “Time doesn’t exist here oh grumpy one.”

  “It is usually you who is grumpy.”

  “You must have taken a grumpy tablet today.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “Grumpy tablets?”

  Just then an usher droid entered, “Please stand away from the RRP.”

  “Recommended Retail Price?” queried Sid.

  “Re-Routing Pad,” said the droid.

  “Keep your knickers on,” said Sid in a hoity toity way.

  “Hoity toity,” said Arthur, “That’s a new one. I bet your spell checker is flagging up toity.”

  “Yes it is, Why?” asked I.

  “Oh, no reason. Just thought I would comment.”

  “Can’t you do anything about us being here Author?” asked Sid.

  “Of course I can, but this gives us extra non-time to get to know each other and for the readers to do the same.”

  “But it’s so booooooring in non-time. I’ve played all the video games, visited all the indoor gardens, raced round the mall on fleeby deebers and it’s all booooooring!” griped Sid.

  “Actually those two wheeled fleeby deebers were fun,” commented Arthur.

  “They were a bit. Can you remember when we hit that stack of baked bean tins in the refectory? They went all over and the place and the chef droid chased us out. Then one of your tyres started to go down and you started flibbing
and flobbing all over. He nearly caught you.”

  “That was scary, I could have gone to the holding cells for a long non-time.”

  “I went there once, saw Alexander Hartdegan there.”

  “Really? I thought he was just a made up fictional character in HG Wells’s science fiction book?”

  “So a bit like us then.”

  Arthur looked at Sid. Sid looked at Arthur. “Goooo on then,” gooed Sid as he and Arthur set off for the rack of fleeby deebers. Before they had even flubbled half way down the plaza they both popped out of the Time Backwater. A collecting droid shimmied over to the fallen fleeby deebers and started to take them back to the nearby fleeby deeber racks.

  The Time backwater II


  Sid and Arthur appeared on the re-routing pads again, but this time with a prisoner. A goblin named Malcolm.

  “You never explained to me why you are called Malcolm,” Said Arthur, “That is an unusual name for a goblin; it is usually something like Umpkin or Blogger?”

  “It’s cause me dad was called Malcolm, I’m really Malcolm the XIV.”

  “I get confused when we use Roman numerals, I thought 14 was XIIII?” said Sid.

  “Not really Sid,” droned Arthur in his superior than everyone else tone, “it was a king who wanted to make it easier to read clocks who put IIII instead of IV.”

  “Blobbin’ royalty,” moaned Sid, “always affecting us commoners!”

  “I ‘ave a similar problem with the Dark Lord, ‘es always telling us to pack up our troubles in our old kit bag and smile,”

  “Sounds like he is an aficionado of the real Earth’s First World War,” noted Arthur.

  “Eh?” ehd Malcolm.

  “That’s why I hate goblins,” said Sid, “let’s kill him now!”

  “Nooooooooooo, please mister dwarf, I have a wife and 6 sprogs to look after, and a large extended family”

  “You should have thought of that before you started trying to cause time paradoxes to kill us,” replied the dwarf.

  “Look, calm down Sid, try to control your dwarvish craving for revenge and goblin blood lust.”

  “Aww,” groaned Sid, “you always want to stop my fun!”

  “We cannot kill him anyway it might cause a catastrophic time event, have you not read the IPP Time Code Field Guide?”

  “Yeah, we don’t want to cause a time catastrophic time event, do we?” grinned Malcolm in a smarmy way at Sid.

  Sid gritted his teeth and started to go really red in the face. Arthur grabbed him, “I am ordering you to calm down, go for a walk in the indoor garden, think about nice things, control your breathing. Count to X.”

  Sid looked at Arthur then turned and walked towards the indoor garden, “Flippin’ goblins I hate them!” he stomped.

  “And stop stomping,” warned Arthur.

  Sid walked around the garden a few times and started to think of nice things but then he fell right into an open manhole. “Ooch, me poore back, who was the fool who left a manhole open?” As his eyes adjusted to the dark he saw a small figure cowering in the access tunnel. “Hello. Who do we have here? I didn’t think there were any people who inhabited the Time Backwater?”

  The figure continued to cower. Sid went over to him, “Come on little chap, don’t be afraid. What’s your name?”

  “Splob,” said the small figure in a high voice.

  “Are you a gnome?” enquired Sid.

  “Yes, why?”

  “No reason, some of my best neighbours are gnomes. They own the silver mine next to mine. What are you doing here?”

  “I’m hiding from the re-transfer droids.”

  “Why are you hiding from them?”

  “In case they re-transfer me. I’ve heard it’s a nasty business.”

  “How long have you been in the Time Backwater?”

  “Give or take a day, 300 years.”

  “You’re nearly as old as me, that means. Did you come from the fantasy dimension?”

  “Yes, it was after the third goblin war.”

  “My dad died in those, that’s one of the reasons I hate goblins.”

  “Well that’s as maybe. I was brought here by a dodgy Interdimensional Police Person. He broke the electronic binding holding me and my wife, when he popped out we were left here.”

  “Dodgy eh. We have a friend in the Interdimensional Police Force, I’m sure he would like to know who the dodgy geezer is if he is still alive. It depends if he came from your future to arrest you or from your present.”

  “My present is now.”

  “No, I meant your present then, not now.”

  “That doesn’t make sense?”

  “Yes it does, well it does if you travel as much in time and different dimensions as we have had to. Do you want to go back to your time? We could help you.”

  Splob thought for a moment, “No thanks I have a wife and gnomelings, and grand gnomelings, and great grand gnomelings and great…”

  “Ok, I get the idea, you have been a very busy little gnome. Well, with all those gnomes in the place how come we haven’t seen one before?”

  “We keep to ourselves, and if we are caught by the re-transfer droids they try to re-transfer us. The thing is though that if they catch any of my descendants they get re-transferred back here again. This is where they were born. My wife and I are the only ones who would get sent back, that’s why I have to use the tunnels to scout for food.”

  “Where do you all live, haven’t you got a gnome to go to?”


  “Pun on the word gnome and home.”

  “Have you been listening to David Bowie?”

  “How do you know about him?”

  “The piped music in the pneuma lifts, they have a selection of 20th and 21st century earth music.”

  “It must be because so many time travelling destinations are going to big events in those centuries. Any way I’d better get back to Arthur and our prisoner.”


  “Yes, a goblin named Malcolm Xcetera or something like that.”

  “Ooh nasty, I hate goblins.”

  “Just like me, are we related do you think?”

  “Maybe in the mists of time, I think I have a dwarven ancestor somewhere, that’s why I’m so tall.”

  “Well if you need any help or anything special from one of the dimensions let me know and I’ll bring it with me next time.”

  “A wind up toothbrush?”

  “Why one of those?”

  “It is difficult to get batteries round here so a wind up one would be great.”

  “Ok, I’ll see what I can do.” Sid climbed out of the access tunnel staring into the face of Arthur who was dragging Malcolm with him.

  “Where have you been?” asked Arthur, “I said calm down not fall down.”

  “I have met a gnome called Splob in the access…” Just then the three of them popped out of the Time backwater.

  Splob pulled the manhole cover across, picked his sack of baked beans and made his way down the access tunnel.

  This is the third part of the Time Backwater mini series. It does not have Sid and Arthur in it from ‘The Crying Pennant’ but Splob, who goes on an adventure by himself…

  “That’s why it’s not as funny,” said Sid.

  “What do you mean?” I asked’

  “Because me an Arthur are not in it it’s not funny.”

  “Yes it is, well a bit funny.”

  “Not at all really, in fact David Sedderis does that satirical descriptive thing much better. I think you had better make it better so that people want to read it.”

  “Oh ok then, I’ll work on it.”

  “I’ll give you a few pointers.”

  “Thanks Sid.”

  “It got a terrible but slightly witty review from that fellow from America.”

  “Yes it did.”

  “So you had better buck your ideas up or no-ones going to buy the book you want them to read. The on
e where I’m the funniest and heroic…”

  “Steady on Sid,” said Arthur, “do you not mean that I am the funniest and most heroic?”

  “In your dreams.”

  “Come on then you two stop fighting and help me make it funnier.”

  The Time Backwater III (Revisited.)

  There was no pop as no re-routed time travellers appeared on the re-routing pads of precinct 19. That would be no popping today, if today meant anything in a folded time space sort of way. But no popping on a single day was quite unusual, there was always somebody trying to get somewhere in time at the same time as too many other people, but not today. (“Say something like ‘It was like the centre of London when the world cup was on,’” suggested Arthur.)

  (“No that’s not funny enough,” said Sid, “Say ‘It was like being on a beach when there was a great white whale looking for dinner, or doing the night shift at Walmart on New Years Eve.”)

  (“That second one is better,” said Arthur, “I am quite enjoying this, helping the author when he has lost his sense of humour.”)

  (“Oi,” said I.)

  The various work droids stood in their positions motionless, like extra dummies in an Indiana Jones film just before the nuke went off and he escaped in a fridge. That is if you have seen the film and you are not a time traveller from the early noughties. (“Is that funny enough?” asked Arthur.)

  (“It’ll do for now, if it gets panned again we’ll go back in time and republish it,” said Sid.) Otherwise this statement means nothing to you. It can’t have been Christmas that stopped them, droids were not working on the electrics therefore re-routing people to one of the other 23 precincts, and there was nothing special going on like a time war or an interdimensional war. No, things were just very quiet, a bit like a backwater really. (“What a weak and pathetic joke, ‘A bit like a backwater’, you have really have lost your mojo, haven’t you?” jibed Sid.)

  (Author = embarrassed.)

  Splob the gnome patriarch popped his head round the corner of the fridge. He looked warily at the chef droid which stood there, standing still. This sounds a bit like an Ultravox song that sometimes played in the pneuma lifts, what a sad man the author was to have thunk this into existence. (“Yes we both agree,” commented Arthur, “you are quite sad, and only use made up words if they are funny, thunk indeed!) While he was trying to think of something funny to say Splob darted across to the food storage and transfer area. (“See,” thought Sid, “evidence of loss of mojo, couldn’t think of anything funny. Good job we’re on the case. There are any number of funny things we could have said there.”)

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